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tv   [untitled]  CSPAN  April 7, 2010 5:00am-5:30am EDT

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million vehicles on the nation's roadways are safe. it sets requirements, for example requiring airbags and setting roof strength standards and other powers@@@@@@@ @ @ @ ensures that vehicles are being recalled that should be. it sets specific regulatory requirements and conducts recall investigations and requires recalls. that is how they do their job. >> nhtsa is under the transportation department. you saw a statement, up from the transportation secretary. why didn't this come from the nhtsa head? dave strickland whom we heard from at the top of this program? >> he is relatively new. the obama administration's first nominee withdrew in the early months of the administration. they did not have a permanent appointee for nearly a year.
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he had not done much press. he has only made a couple of speeches. getting his feet wet. i expect at some point we will see a little more from him. >> what will nhtsa be doing in the days and weeks to come on this issue of toyota and investigations overall? >> where to begin. first, they have brought in at nasa and the national academy of sciences to investigate sudden acceleration. the first one is going to take 15 months looking at whether cosmic radiation or other issues could be at issue. the other is to look at the broader issue -- what is the cause of sudden acceleration, not just in toyota but in others? they're going to continue looking at those 70,000 documents and decide whether toyota followed the rules on the other recalls. they are also looking at complaints on the toyota corolla.
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you have a multitude of investigations. you also see nhtsa being much quicker to investigate other problems. they just opened a preliminary investigation of 6 million gm vehicles for breaking issues. the other thing we have seen at least three times in the last month -- automakers have stopped selling vehicles were they did not have a fix, which was very rare before. >> transportation secretary ray lahood talked about the investigation going forward in february before a house committee. we will take a look at that. >> when i talked to mr. toyoda, i said three things. i said this is a very serious matter for your company in america. i want you to know the dot is taking it seriously. we are not going to sleep until every one of your cars is safe for americans to drive. i invited him to come to
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america. >> we never had a chance to talk, but you have been proactive in trying to get out in front of this. one of the concerns i have is that 70% of this sudden unintended acceleration we still do not have an answer for. in fact, according to all the documents from nhtsa and also from toyota only 16% of the sudden accelerations are really addressed with the format and the sticky accelerator, if you will. and the electronics seems to have to have some part of it. are we any further along? >> as i said in my testimony, we are going to do a complete review of the electronics. we will meet with the folks from southern illinois university, take a look at the results of what they have had to
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look at. we will look at what the toyota folks have done with the people they have hired. we are going to get into this. we're going to get into the weeds on the electronics. we feel an obligation to do that because we have 30,000 complaints a year and we take every one seriously. we do not just set them off to the side. when we see a few start to stack up, we get into it. i commit to you we are going to do that. >> how about this event data recorder, which records information 5 seconds before an accident and one after? >> we have a review of that going on. >> it says you're investigators have been asked at some of these accidents sites, like the south lake, texas 1, the one that happened up in auburn, new york -- that one was also nhtsa.
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folks were there. investigators took the black box on november 27. what did you do with it? what do your investigators do with the black box if you do not have any way to read it? >> our challenge is to investigate these and to render judgment about it. >> would your investigators have taken the black box? >> i do not know the specifics on that incident. i will check it out. >> i got that from your outline that you provided us of the actions you took. do you have any knowledge? >> i do not. dr. gilbert indicated he was able to bypass the system and the diagnostic code would not come up. it was a book end -- one of the things that could happen. he said he notified nhtsa of the
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test results, what he found -- tried to contact nhtsa. all he got back was an e-mail form saying "thank you for contacting us." can you assure us nhtsa is going to follow up? >> you have my 100% commitment that we will talk to anybody that wants to talk to us. we will look at studies that have been conducted, studies that have been done through the toyota program. we will figure this out. i know all of you think this is a serious issue. we think it is a serious issue. >> you not stopped building cars in the united states, certain models. are they still building those cars? are they going to pause? what is the status. on building some of their models in the united states, they stopped after your intervention. have they started producing
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those cars again? >> i do not know. i will have to get back to you on that. >> does nhtsa need the responsibility -- does it need to accept some responsibility? we heard today that they fell nhtsa tried to convince them it was the floor mats. is there some responsibility nhtsa shares in this investigation? >> if you look at my testimony, no one has talked more about safety in washington d.c. -- washington, d.c., and around the country, then ray lahood. we had a distracted driving conference. we stepped up on a car mat rule so that people do not have to sit -- stepped up on the tarmac rule so people do not have to sit on airplanes six hours. we suspended air traffic when there was a crash over the hudson. we also investigated when the
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pilots overflew minneapolis by 150 miles. we are not sitting on our hands. safety is our priority. we take it seriously. we take every complaint seriously. we look at it and we open investigations when we think it needs to be done. >> no one doubts your aggressive enforcement action. the problem we have -- if we have all these complaints on sudden surges in his vehicle -- toyota vehicles -- and we get 70% unresolved, how do we resolve that 70% that is still unaccounted for, and explained, with millions of these vehicles on the road? >> we will continue our investigations which we have. there are currently investigations going on. there are recalls going on. many of them were sparked by the department of transportation and nhtsa -- initiated by us.
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>> but you cannot continue the investigation -- in 2004, you did your report, march 24. you closed it on july 22, 2004. there were five fatal accidents involving surges and the investigator said it does not count because we are only looking for a momentary surge and that accelerators stayed on too long. we just disregarded it. it was like they looked at it with blinders on. when we do this investigation we cannot do that. you're doing an investigation. you have five fatal accidents coming in and you do not take them into consideration in your report. that is poor work. >> that will not happen on my
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watch. >> we are talking about auto safety -- federal oversight. we will incorporate your phone calls and twitter messages. the phone numbers will be up on your screen. you can also go to #cpsspan is our handle. first, and dave shepardson of "detroit news" is here to talk about these investigations. before we heard from secretary lahood in february we were talking about the fact that nasa and the national academy of sciences have been asked to step in and investigate as well. why nasa? why the national academy of sciences? >> they are looking at the issue congressman stilupak
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was talking about with the electronics. there are mechanical issues. the big question is -- is there something about the electronics? is there a glitch or a ghost in the machine causing some of these runaway vehicles? nhtsa and toyota say they have not found any evidence, but they're going to assemble a panel of electrical engineers and other electronic experts to get to the bottom of whether there is something in the millions of lines of code and all the electronics in the vehicles that are to blame for some of these incidents. >> what is the evidence saying right now? the strongest evidence in support of electronics is that there are many unexplained incidents. you see many complaints that have not been explained by mechanical issues. the hardest part is human error. some people sometimes hit the wrong pedal. they hit the accelerator instead of the break.
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we've probably all done it for a second accidentally. people do not want to admit that. if you make a mistake -- we do not know if some of those incidents could be attributed to an electronic issue. there are a lot of trouble in complaints that certainly are from people who appear to be trying to be honest. but we have never seen a case where we can definitively prove, based on the event data recorder or something else, that this is electronics. that is something the experts are going to look at and try to find out one way or the other. the transportation department is asking nasa and the national academy of sciences to come on board. are they admitting they do not have the resources to look into today's modern cars? >> you are right. they are. they have a few people with experience but they do not have the amount of -- the things you
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look at, mechanical problems in cars -- the agency has generally shied away from doing a lot of electronics. the look at this issue in 1986. in 1989 the wrote a long report and thought they put it to bed. for decades, these issues have popped up. in the late nineties there were issues about jeeps in car washes and whether there were electronic searches. i think the agency has not necessarily put a lot of stock in electronics issues. now they say they are going to bring topflight experts in -- nasa to look at electromagnetic radiation or outside forces. they are not electronics experts at nhtsa. there is so much concern in congress and elsewhere they're going to the world's best for an answer. we're not going to get the definitive answer for probably a year or more. in that video we showed you, we
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heard from rep bart stupak, a democrat from michigan. what is congress going to do? what does congressman stupack want to do when it comes to reforming safety laws going forward? >> members of the energy and congress -- energy and commerce committee are working on legislation now. i think you will see an increase in the budget of nhtsa. in 1980, they had 119 investigators. they have about half of that today. i think you're going to see, potentially, a requirement that foreign automakers designate a person in the united states with the legal ability to recall vehicles. the big issue is that the authority to recall vehicles at toyota rests with people in japan. there is concern within congress that someone in the united states should have an authority.
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that is something i think foreign companies will potentially object to. i thi i think there will be more requirements on safety devices like break shift override and event data recorders and hiking fines, potentially making the penalties tougher, even criminal penalties for an executive that knowingly failed to recall a vehicle. they did not go that far in 2000. but there is so much outrage in congress. i think there is going to be some action. it is a question of how long that takes. remember in 2000, the tread act passed in a matter of weeks. something will get done. >> thank you for being with us. appreciate it. coming up next, your phone
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calls, your twitter messages, and we will talk to former nhtsa administrator is -- dr. jeffrey runge and dr. ricardo martinez. first, we want to show more testimony from the current administrator at a house oversight subcommittee last month, where he was questioned by two congressmen about nhtsa oversight and current subpoena power. >> t av been a lot of articles written -- a lot of testimony recently that nhtsa has not fulfilled its responsibility, that nhtsa is the lap dog for the industry not a watchdog. there has been a lot of criticism out there about the agency. as the administrator, how would you respond to that in a general way? do you think that criticism is valid? >> it is not valid at all. we have been a very active agency since i have taken office. it has been very active since secretary lahood has taken
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office. this agency opened eight separate investigations over the time. when there were complaints about sudden acceleration. a lap dog does not open eight investigations. the goal is for us and our statutory order is to find any vehicle safety defect that presents an unreasonable risk. anytime a complaint or any data or anomaly in the number of complaints or what we see from the early warning system -- our folks take a look at it. they investigate. if we cannot find the defect, which cannot enforce a mandatory recall. that does not mean we think that vehicle is safe, but at that point we cannot meet the statutory case. we will keep looking. as we have, when we find a defect, such as the floor mat entrapment or the sticky peddla,
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we act and react quickly. i do not think the history of our action in this area before i took office or the tenure. a lot of people are looking at -- i think this agency has been active. >> if you find a defect, you can require a mandatory recall. is that correct? >> yes, sir. about subpoena power -- it is my understanding that you can issue information requests. >> yes, sir. >> do the manufacturers have to respond to that request? >> there is a difference between a subpoena and an information request. i know a lot of people talk about we have subpoena power. we can compel a subpoena for documents. we can get every document and they have to give that to us. information requests, they also have to respond, but it has a better purpose. we not only get documents. we asked direct questions to
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give us answers to. it is a sharper tool. the agency uses that frequently. we sent three large queries to toyota regarding the timeliness of their submission of information to us regarding the floor mats and the sticky pedals. we sent a large recall query asking toyota for all their information and to answer questions about all the sudden acceleration events, which will be a large amount of data for us to review. if we find in the review of those documents that there is a violation will move forward accordingly. >> have you found the lack of subpoena power a hindrance to the agency doing its job effectively? >> in my review of the work on toyota, while toyota has been slow in years past i will say they have not been as responsive as my staff feel they should have been in response. since i have been in office, they have been very responsive.
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i hope that will continue in the future. in terms of our subpoena power, our ability to get information requests responded to, i have no evidence that has been a problem. >> you were asked a question -- you have mandatory recall power. you answered yes. do you remember that? can you explain to us why your agency has not initiated a recall since 1979? >> you can often influence a recall by going through the initial stages of the process. most times, and automaker will not want to go through the fall formal process. it takes approximately a year. it is a public process. a lot of automakers, realizing they are facing public scrutiny of fighting a vehicle safety defect when they know the agency can prove it, they will go forward and effect a voluntary recall. most recalls are voluntary.
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there is a huge number that are influenced by this agency. that is the actual number one should look at. we influence well over half of the recalls that are happening every year. that is the real number. i think that is indicative of our power. we do not have to get to the point where the administrator, after a year of public hearings, has to sign an order. automakers will go forward and take care of that voluntarily. >> tommy as skeptical that in a 31-year. there has not been and instance where auto makers acted responsibly in every particular case, responding to a demand of a recall -- in a 31-year. period. >> i want to talk about how you describe the agency's mission in
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response to changes in the automotive industry. do you remember that in your opening remarks? i don't know if i would call it a change in mission. it is a change in how we have to approach the job. there was a time when america was the world leader in manufacturing. we are no longer that leader. >> i am talking about something different. i grew up in the muscle car era, when you could tear apart an engine in your basement and put it back together, having a basic knowledge of the internal combustion engine. you cannot do any more -- you cannot do that anymore. one of the things that came out was this concept of black box technology that has crashed data in its that is driven by a complex computer code, some of which the manufacturer is willing to share. some manufacturers have been reluctant to share that data or to provide an ability for your
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employees to have the keys to the kingdom so that they can download and interpret that information independently. >> i agree. one of the things i am concerned about is our internal committee report for this hearing. it suggests that your agency budget dedicated to vehicle safety has remained stagnant, relatively, over the past 10 years. your resources are far below the resources that were available for this type of investigation when the agency was at its height. my concern is, based upon some of the testimony at the previous hearing -- when you have a demand for computer engineers and electrical engineers and people who are not based in mechanical backgrounds, i am concerned that the level of funding in the staffing of personnel within your agency may not be adequate to meet the incredible demands of the changing technology of the
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automobile industry. have you done an independent review to make your own independent judgment on whether or not that is a critical case we need to address? >> i have a couple of responses to that. the work of odi and the auto engineers that do the work -- they are some of the finest in the business in this country. as the technology evolves, the experience of our investigators and engineers also involves. i can give you the number of folks we have on deck. we have 125 engineers. we have five electrical engineers. we have a software engineer. we have engineers in our ohio facility. we of resources for consultants when we need additional expertise. from my understanding since i have taken office, there is not a notion that we do not have the proper expertise to handle today's automobiles. i do not think that is the case.
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however, recognizing that you can always buttress what you have, the president has provided resources to hire 66 new people, which we will use to leverage our resources and to buttress and strengthen those folks. in addition, we will look at ways we can do longitudinal and long-range studies on these complex systems, as the secretary spoke about in the prior hearings. it is my confidence that we can handle the current marketplace with our expertise. can we be stronger? of course we can. >> we are talking about federal oversight of car safety. we want to hear from you in a minute. first, let me introduce to of our guests, and dr. jeffrey runge, the former administrator of nhtsa up. he served from 2001 to 2005. from atlanta, dr. ricardo martinez, former head of nhtsa from 1994 to 1999.
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thank you for being with us. >> thank you. >> dr. jeffrey runge, could i get your reaction to the fine that nhtsa is seeking against toyota -- $16.40 million? >> if the evidence points to the fact that toyota was withholding information from regulators and the public it is appropriate. that fine level is relatively new. it is a new authority from the tread act that was passed in response to the ford at firestone issue -- the ford firestone issue. before that, the fine was down in the hundreds of thousands. we were the first ones to cross that million dollar barrel. ford was slow to report a windshield wiper defect that was a safety threat. going to $16 million, to the
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full extent of the law, sends a message to the industry that they are serious. >> i read one critics saying that "toyota embarrassed the agency and that is where this is coming from." what do you think? >> the agency's mission oriented. it does not have all of the tools it might need. it is usually outgunned by the global industry. this was critic for a national industry. we transitioned to a global industry. it is trying to maintain the rules. what you do is you find people who have gone over the rules and you hold them accountable. $16 million is not a lot for a company making $200 million. but it is the largest amount allowed by law, a strong message. >> are you saying that nhtsa cannot live up to its responsibilities? that it is not adequately funded and does not have enough resources in today's global economy? >> i think the fact that they
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are asking for 66 new positions is a reflection of the fact that authority has grown dramatically. we have also seen this with the fda and other agencies. we have gone from a national market to a global market. you need the additional resources. the car has gone from a mechanical vehicle to an electronic vehicle. that requires, as you can see in this case, more expertise in software, electrical systems, and that sort of thing. you need to make sure there is communications expertise because of connectivity issues coming down the road. in some ways, the agency is playing catch-up. the testimony -- it really has some of the world's experts. what is different about the agency versus any other agency in the world in auto safety is that the researchers and policy makers are together. the question is whether they have the resources they need in today's world. >> why me ask you about responsibility.
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before we went on air, you said that some people have said the nhtsa did not live up to its responsibilities when it comes to the case of toyota. what do you say? >> i take a little offense, even though i am not there anymore. i know these people. i know how they work. as ricardo martinez said, the work with the resources given to them by congress and the administration. their job in the vehicle safety area is to promulgate rules under the federal motor vehicle safety act and to look for defective vehicles -- systemically defective vehicles. the definition is an unreasonable risk of harm. the law does not say that this has to be a risk-free environment. it says that nhtsa's job is to go out and find a defect which is an unreasonable risk of harm.


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